2021 Lexus IS preview: This one's honed on the track for $40,025

Lexus on Monday unveiled a new generation of its IS small sedan, one boasting sharper looks than its predecessor, new infotainment technology and a chassis honed on the track.

The new IS will start from $40,025 including destination when it arrives in showrooms this fall as a 2021 model. It will sharpened for the track, according to the automaker.

To ensure the new IS meets this newfound focus, the car was developed extensively on the track, specifically at the recently established Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama, which contains a series of separate tracks including one designed to simulate the Nürburgring.

As a result, the new IS has benefited from increased body rigidity and suspension upgrades to enhance its driving characteristics over the previous IS, with which it shares a platform. The new IS measures 185.2 inches long and 72.4 inches wide, wider and longer by an inch than the previous model. The wheelbase is unchanged at 110.2 inches, so interior space should be identical.

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

The standard wheels now measure 18 inches across, up one inch from before. And IS buyers can also add 19-inch wheels for the first time, including a BBS design. The BBS wheel is exclusive to IS F Sport models equipped with an available Dynamic Handling Package. This package also includes adjustable dampers, and a Torsen limited-slip differential for rear-wheel-drive models.

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“What we had foremost in mind in developing the new IS was to make it a car that excelled in communicating with the driver regardless of the road conditions or driving situation,” Naoki Kobayashi, chief engineer at Lexus, said in a statement.

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

The interior is almost identical to the one in the previous IS, though there are new elements like an available 10.3-inch (8.0-inch standard) infotainment screen and circular air vents. The big news, for some buyers at least, is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa compatibility. Premium touches include a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat (eight-way for front passenger) as standard and an available Mark Levinson sound system with 17 speakers—up from 15 in the previous IS.

Powertrains carry over from the previous IS. The list includes a 241-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 in an IS 300 with rear-wheel drive starting from $40,025; a 260-hp 3.5-liter V-6 in an IS 300 with all-wheel drive priced from $42,025; and a 311-hp 3.5-liter V-6 only available in the IS 350 F Sport priced from $43,925 with rear-wheel drive and $45,925 with all-wheel drive. The AWD system features a 30:70 front-to-rear split in normal conditions but can switch to a 50:50 split when slip is detected. An 8-speed automatic is standard on rear-drive cars, a 6-speed automatic is equipped on all-wheel drive models.

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2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

The IS 350 with RWD is the quickest here, needing 5.6 seconds to hit 60 mph from standstill. The F Sport variants are limited to the 311-hp V-6 IS 350.

Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be any plans to bring back the high-performance IS F. The previous IS never received the F treatment and the same is likely true for this new one. All may not be lost, however. There are rumors Lexus is considering filling the void with an IS 500 powered by a 416-hp 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 found in the LS 500. A hybrid option is also possible.

For more on the Lexus IS, read the in-depth reviews at The Car Connection.


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